Conroe, March 27 – Now that Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal is a lame duck after the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack is seeking again to return management and control of the Montgomery County government to the entire Commissioners Court and out of the hands of Doyal. The Texas Constitution makes clear that the entire Commissioners Court – and not any one member such as the County Judge – is responsible for management, control, and oversight of the county government.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley on February 14, 2017, made clear that he didn’t want the responsibility of overseeing, managing, or controlling the County government and preferred to give that responsibility to someone else. Therefore, Riley voted against a similar proposal that Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark made at that Commissioners Court meeting.
Noack’s specific proposal is: “CONSIDER, DISCUSS, AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION RELATING TO THE RESOLUTION AND ORDER APPROVED ON JANUARY 26, 2015 (MOTION #36) INVOLVING THE REORGANIZATION OF COUNTY DEPARTMENTS AND TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY TO THE COUNTY JUDGE.”
Noack explained during an interview with The Golden Hammer yesterday, “The entire Commissioners Court has the responsibility under the Texas Constitution to manage and oversee the business of the County government. The voters clearly rejected the approach Judge Doyal has taken. It’s appropriate for us to take back the management and oversight under these circumstances.”
A year ago, Doyal made clear that he intentionally didn’t tell the remainder of the members of the Commissioners Court what was happening within the County government. “I don’t tell you everything that goes on for a reason,” Doyal angrily told Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack during the discussion on February 14, 2017.
Numerous insiders have expressed a grave fear that Doyal will seek to terminate Montgomery County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw, because Shaw has shown independence and lack of willingness to go along with Doyal’s nepotism and corruption. Shaw is a member of Doyal’s political “Hit List” of County government employees who didn’t support Doyal politically in the 2014 election.
Noack’s proposal would restore management of all County Departments to the full oversight of the entire County Commissioners Court rather than exclusively under the direction of Doyal. Since January 15, 2015, County Judge Craig Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks have been responsible for the management of the vast majority of County Departments. Previously, all County Departments reported to the entire County Commissioners Court. On January 15, however, by a 3 to 1 vote (Noack voted against, Clark was absent), Doyal and Commissioners Charlie Riley and Mike Meador reorganized the County management structure.
Doyal made clear that County Department heads could only discuss matters with individual County Commissioners that pertained to their Commissioner’s Precincts. “If there’s an issue in your Precinct, they’re not precluded” from speaking with individual County Commissioners, Doyal told Clark last year during a Commissioners Court meeting. Clark noted, “There have been some things that haven’t been communicated to me. I feel like I’m out of the loop on some of this that I need to be closer to. Voters put me here to make right decisions for the county as a whole.”
After Noack argued that “Some department heads asked for the return of the County’s management to the entire Court…department heads aren’t clear if they can talk to us.” Doyal provided that clarification: Department heads apparently can’t speak to individual Commissioners without running afoul of Doyal, unless he gives them permission or the matter involves a Commissioner’s individual Precinct.
Doyal defied Noack’s and Clark’s request for information: “I’m not going to get into day to day operations…I’ll bring major issues to court…I don’t tell you everything that goes on for a reason.”
The County Commissioners Court voted two (Clark, Noack) to three (Doyal, Meador, Riley) and defeated the effort to return management of County departments to the entire Commissioners Court on February 14.
There are at least three major problems with the current County administrative and management structure.
First, it runs afoul of the vision of how counties should run under the Texas Constitution, Article V, Section 18, which provides, “The [County Commissioners] court shall exercise powers over county business” rather than one member of the Commissioners Court. Commissioner Noack has said, “Though the opportunity to delegate authority may be permitted, it is not wise. The people elected me as commissioner to be able to make these types of decisions pursuant to the Texas Constitution and statutes and when the court approved this egregious resolution they robbed the power from the people of Montgomery County…Delegating these responsibilities to just one sole authority has created a dictator on our court.”
Commissioner Clark said, “I believe this [proposal to move the departments back under the entire Commissioners Court] is a positive move and one that is necessary to keep the integrity of the court’s actions intact. With the increased and intense scrutiny the court is receiving at this time, my belief is that my vote is a voice for the people that elected me to make the best decisions for Montgomery County. We may not always agree and that’s okay. These important decisions need to be made by the entire court.”
Second, the centralized management of Montgomery County just doesn’t work. Doyal is largely absent from the office. His golf obligations and hectic social life keep him busy. The 2016 and early 2017 melee between County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw and her Assistant Director Kathy Flowers on the one hand and County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport on the other hand over the Treasurer Department’s proposed “reorganization” illustrated the problem with keeping the County’s management under the hyper-political Doyal who regularly encourages nepotism and political posturing.
Third, and perhaps most important, Montgomery County’s government has gained a reputation for its lack of ethics during the management tenure of Doyal and fredricks. On January 24, 2018, the Commissioners Court reluctantly adopted a Code of Ethics in response to a requirement of the Texas Department of Transportation that if the Court failed to adopt such a Code, all state road and bridge grants would cease. The Code of Ethics has very little enforcement mechanisms. Nevertheless, the one enforcement method that exists is oversight from a five-person Ethics Committee, two of whom the County Commissioners Court will appoint and the other three nominated from the Human Resources Department, the Purchasing Department, and the County Auditor. Under the current organization, the Human Resources and Purchasing departments report directly to Doyal. Therefore, Doyal would likely control two Ethics Committee appointments out of five and might control as many as four out of five, if he held the influence over the two Commissioners Court appointments as well.